Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Soddy-Daisy Food Bank volunteers are working to raise awareness about the organization and its needs, as well as promoting its annual Harvest Food Drive to be held at the Soddy-Daisy Walmart Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26 and 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. both days.
“Most people don’t even know there is a Soddy-Daisy Food Bank,” said North Hamilton Chamber Council president Richard Foster, who hosted Soddy-Daisy Food Bank volunteers Dobby Dobson, public relations director, and Don Ringley, head of the food bank, at the council’s recent meeting.
The council has sponsored a food drive for the Soddy-Daisy Food Bank for the past five years. Dobson said last year’s drive, in which donations were collected at several area First Tennessee banks, achieved only minimal success, and organizers are hoping the location change to Walmart will increase giving at this year’s event.
Walmart customers can pick up a bag already packed with food for $5, making donating convenient and almost effortless, he noted.
Need is especially great right now, as total food costs are up 37 percent and the number of people served has increased by 15 percent, said Dobson. He said the local food bank distributes 300 parcels each month, up 12 percent from last year.
The Soddy-Daisy Food Bank is entirely separate from the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, which he describes as a nonprofit group operating as a collection agency.
If the Soddy-Daisy Food Bank gets food from the Chattanooga Area Food Bank to serve its clients, it is charged $9 per parcel of food. For an individual to get food from the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, they must obtain a voucher from one of its partner churches, and the church covers the $9 charge, according to Dobson.
Soddy-Daisy Food Bank is an all-volunteer organization established in 1989 in the basement of Soddy United Methodist Church, where it remains today. Dobson said the group is currently looking for a new building to increase storage space, as well as volunteers to help aging retirees, who do the bulk of the work hauling parcels.
Food is distributed at Soddy UMC each Thursday from 9-11 a.m. Recipients do not need to obtain a voucher but must live north of Boy Scout Road to be eligible for food. Volunteers are unable verify income, but client addresses will be confirmed upon registration.
Clients are allowed only one parcel per month.
“Some line up at 6 a.m. to be first in line to get food,” said Dobson, as meat and dairy products sometimes run out before everyone is served. “Our goal is for [the clients] to have healthy, tasty, nourishing food to eat. We’re not trying to feed them every day, just provide a supplement.”
He said the closing of the area’s Food Lion stores hit the food bank hard, as a good portion of its meat came from the grocer. The cost to operate the food bank is about $3,000 a month, 98 percent of which is spent on food and the other two percent on operational costs, according to Ringley.
Of the 673 clients served this year, Dobson said 25 percent have only accepted food once, while 47 percent came three times or less, and 18 percent came at least 10 times.
If someone approaches the food bank for help but lives outside its service area, the client is provided with an emergency food box and referred to a church offering Chattanooga Area Food Bank vouchers.
Ringley said the amount of food the Chattanooga Area Food Bank provides for individuals is typically two-thirds the amount given to Soddy-Daisy Food Bank clients.